Date Of Induction : 01 November 2014 Category : Post Production
Most collectors of Northern Soul records will have the name of Weldon A McDougall III nestled in their 45s collection somewhere. A native of Philadelphia Weldon was born at the Mercy Douglas Hospital in West Philly and was raised by his mother Eleanor having been named after his father and Grandfather. His interest in music was sparked as a student at West Philadelphia High School where he first encountered George Tindley (Of The Dreams) and George Grant (Of The Castelles). As a schoolboy Weldon showed early signs of the entrepreneurship that would drive his ambitions throughout his life and could be found delivering the neighbourhoods newspapers on his trusty bike. One of his family customer’s son, Johnny Stiles later became a major influence in Weldon’s life when along with Luther Randolph, the trio established Harthon Records at 5994 Chestnut St in West Philly. Weldon’s early musical involvement came in the mid fifties when it seemed just about every high school student was in some kind of singing group. Weldon was no exception and he put together his own doo wop inspired quartet called The Larks. On graduation though in 1955, the call to serve Uncle Sam however interrupted the group’s progress and Weldon spent two years serving his country as United States Marine at Quantico Virginia.
On discharge he returned to Philadelphia, reconnected with former Lark Pat White (who became Mrs Weldon McDougall), and set about finding a new lead singer. Approached by local singers Earl ‘Bill’ Oxendine and Jackie Marshall, Weldon and Pat on hearing them agreed that their new quartet was now complete. Mistakenly booked by Jocko Henderson, (the WDAS legendary DJ), for one of his Rocket Ship shows at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre (1) The newly formed quartet appeared on the same bill as Clyde McPhatter, Baby Washington and Shep And The Limelights. Despite not having even made a recording yet fellow Philly maestro, Bandstand announcer and record producer Jerry Ross recognised their potential and took the group into the Reco -Arts Studio. The resulting 45s would set the group off on a musical journey that would include releases on Ross’ own Sheryl label and further outings on Uptown and Tower, including of course the classic double-sider, The Four Larks — Groovin’ At The Go Go b/w I Still Love You” — Tower 402. (Pat White had left the group by this stage, split with Weldon and Vivian, Weldon’s second wife is the female lead on the 45).
In tandem with his work with the Four Larks, Weldon also established Harthon Records who produced many classic Northern Soul 45s at Frank Virtue’s studio on Broad St. Amongst the lengthy legacy of The Harthon Trio of Weldon, Luther Randolph and Johnny Stiles are such outings as Larry Clinton — “She’s Wanted In Three States” — Dynamo 300, Herb Ward — “Strange Change” — Argo 3510 and The Cooperettes — “Shing A Ling” — Brunswick 553, as well as fantastic outings as diverse as Eddie Holman, The Victors, The Rotations, The Inspirations, Cliff Nobles and of course the hugely popular Shirley Turner — “World Of Happiness” . Of course the Harthon label itself gave us sought after discs by The Volcanos, The United Four, Bernard Williams, The Preludes and Lee Garrett.
Whilst enjoying success with Harthon, Weldon also worked at Chips Distribution where he was instrumental in promoting soul re cords in particular. The gold stickers that became the trademark of Chips Distribution were an invention of Weldon’s. When the Harthon trio started enjoying notoriety from their Virtue Studio productions they formed Dyno-Dynamic Productions and along with Jimmy Bishop, the WDAS DJ and Harold Lipsius, the owner of Jamie Guyden established Arctic Records with Weldon’s discovery, The Tiffanies kicking off the labels output. The label’s most successful artist, Barbara Mason was also mentored by Weldon. Of course Dyno-Dynamic, via the Arctic label, (and it’s short lived sister: Frantic), produced many Northern Soul classics by Barbara, The Volcanos, Herb Johnson, and the Arctic label itself contributed a whole slew of Northern Soul classics from Honey and The Bees, The Temptones, Kenny Hamber etc.
Undeterred by the Arctic deal turning sour and leaving the trio bereft of any control, (2) Weldon and the guys continued producing records that would hit the spot thousands of miles away in UK. From Marva Lee’s wonderful interpretation of the Gene Chandler classic and Nella Dodds’ version of the Supremes to the fantastic pounder by Irma and The Larks and he haunting Intentions 45, Weldon was at the heart of the mid sixties Philly Sound. So much so that as Gamble and Huff gained in stature they employed Weldon as their promo man and it is Weldon’s cartoon image that gave Philadelphia International Records part of its marque and later Berry Gordy would call upon him to do that very same job, (amongst others), for his Motown empire. Weldon was prolific photographer and was rarely seen without a camera within an arms length and his archive of photographs is legendary. Part of his photographic legacy led to him and Bill Dhal creating a book, recording his time at Motown during which he took thousands of distinctly personal and informal photographs of Berry Gordy’s superstars.
Weldon had another endearing hobby too. Every Friday afternoon he would ‘disappear’. His love of the movies would never diminish and he went to the cinema every week in order to be transported to that cellular world of fantasy. To talk about movies with Weldon was to be enthralled, almost childlike, as he sang the praises of spending a few hours in what he often described as a separate, wonderful world.
Always ready to help Philly bound soulfans, he became a friend to many, including your author and his ever present, big beaming smile was always a sight that I never tired of. Weldon sadly passed away in 2010, a raconteur, a man that could sell sand to the Arabs, he would be over the moon to be included in The Northern Soul Hall Of Fame. It’s an honour and privilege to have been part of his tribute as he is recognised in such a way and becomes a founding Inductee into the Soul Source Northern Soul Hall Of Fame.
Dave Moore 01 Nov 2014
Notes and References:
- According to Weldon, Jocko thought he had booked Don Juan And The Meadowlarks!
- The Harthon trio were duped into thinking that Arctic Records was established as a vehicle for their own productions and that they were co owners. This turned out to no be the case.
The following listof records are all records that Weldon was involved with in some way, either as artist, a producer or a label owner. It’s by no means complete or even near exhaustive but gives a good flavour/account of some of the Northern Soul 45s that he contributed too.
Four Larks - It's Unbelievable b/w II Can't Believe It - 334
Cleopatra - Heaven Only Knows b/w My Darling - 334
Four Larks - Let's Drink A Toast b/w There Is A Girl - 338 .
Irma and The Larks - Don't Cry b/w Without You Baby - 332.
Irma and The Larks - Don't Cry b/w Without You Baby - 1003
Irma & The Fascinators - Just A Feeling b/w Lost Love - 12100
The Four Larks - Tower 748 - That's All That Counts b/w You And Me — 748
The Four Larks — I’s Unbelievable b/w Keep Climbing Brothers - 761
The Four Larks - Another Chance b/w Rain - 364
The Four Larks- I Still Love You (From The Bottom Of My Heart) b/w Groovin' At The Go-Go - 402
The Four Larks — I’ve Got Plenty b/w Can I Have Another Helping Please — 450
Herb Ward - Strange Change b/w Why Do You Want To Leave Me - 3510
Tiffanys - Love Me b/w Happiest Girl In The World - 101
Barbara Mason - Come To Me b/w Girls Have Feelings Too - 102
Volcanos - Baby b/w Make Your Move - 103
Cindy Gibson - Step By Step b/w Whisper You Love Me Baby - 104
Barbara Mason - Yes I'm Ready b/w Keep Him - 105
Volcanos - Storm Warning b/w Baby - 106
Kenny Gamble And The Floaters - Down By The Seashore Part 1 b/w Part 2 - 107
Barbara Mason - Come To Me b/w Sad, Sad Girl - 108
Herb Johnson - Gloomy Day b/w Carfare Back - 109
Volcanos - Help Wanted b/w Make Your Move - 111
Barbara Mason - You Got What It Takes b/w If You Don't (Love Me,Tell Me So) - 112
Kenny Gamble & The Romeos - Ain't It Baby Part 1 b/w Part 2 - 113
Volcanos - (It's Against The) Laws Of Love b/w Inst - 115
Barbara Mason - Don't Ever Want To Lose Your Love b/w Is It Me - 116
Barbara Mason - I Need Love b/w Bobby Is My Baby - 120
Volcanos - Lady's Man b/w Help Wanted - 125
Barbara Mason - Poor Girl I'm In Trouble b/w Hello Baby - 126
Volcanos - Make Your Move b/w You're Number 1 - 128
Barbara Mason - You Can Depend On Me b/w Game Of Love - 134
Barbara Mason - Oh How It Hurts b/w Ain't Got Nobody - 137
Barbara Mason - Half A Love b/w Slipping Away - 142
Barbara Mason - Don't Ever Go Away b/w I'm So Good For You - 146
Barbara Mason - Take It Easy b/w You Never Loved Me - 148
Barbara Mason - You Better Stop It b/w Happy Girl — 154
Luther Randolph & Johnny Styles - Crossroads Part 1 b/w Crossroads Part 2 - 424
Luther Randolph & Johnny Styles - Talkin' 'Bout You Part 1 b/w Talkin' 'Bout You Part 2 - 426
Joann Jackson & The Dreams - Georgie Porgie b/w The Mob - 427
Luther Randolph & Johnny Styles - Criss Cross b/w I Fell Pretty - 429
The Twilights - It's Been So Long b/w She Put Me Down - 134
The Twilights - Shipwreck b/w For First Time - 135
Bernard Williams & The Blue Notes - Needless To Say b/w Focussed On You - 136
Lee Garrett - I Can't Break The Habit b/w Baby, Please Don't Go - 137
The Volcanos - Gotta Be A False Alarm b/w Movin' And Groovin' - 138
The United Four - She's Puttin' You On b/w Go On - 139
The Preludes - Deeper Than That b/w Shiggy Diggy - 140
Lee Garrett - I'm So Glad Part 1 b/w I’m So Glad Part 2 - 141
The United Four - Look At Her Now b/w One More Year - 142
The Volcanos - Take Me Back Again b/w Aw Shucks - 146
The Body Motions - False Alarm b/w Putting You On - 103074
Nella Dodds - Come See About Me b/w You Don't Love Me Anymore - 167
Nella Dodds - Finders Keepers Losers Weepers b/w A Girl's Life - 171
Inspirations - Kiss And Make Up b/w Love Can Be So Wonderful - 182
Nella Dodds -Com Back Baby b/w Dream Boy - 187
Marva Lee - If You Can't Be True b/w Too Bad Too Sad - 6367
The Sweet Delights - Baby Be Mine Paul's Midnight Ride - 6601
Intentions - Don't Forget That I Love You b/w Night Rider - 40428
Victors - Hurt b/w Not Only A Girl Know - 40475